VICTORIA, Texas -- I don't want to shoot Bambi. In the first place, Bambi isn't big enough. And Faline, his girlfriend, isn't legal to shoot in the county where I hunt.
So instead, I have opted to go after a four-legged nuisance that plagues many ranchers.
My feeder remains hung from an old live oak tree, providing a treat every morning and evening for the deer and various furry varmints.
For many years, my area was hunted, reducing the deer population considerably. But for the last few years, few deer have been shot and the fawns are now able to grow to maturity. Until the day when the herds are large enough to hunt once again, I will stick to looking for the aforementioned nuisances -- wild hogs.
The beauty of these animals is that Texas Parks and Wildlife does not consider them game animals.
So other than requiring a hunting license, the state does not place restrictions on how and when they can be hunted on private property.
So hunker down behind some brush with your AK-47 and spotlight with the attached red filter and wait for the animals to come.
A loud grunting from some of the large ones will signal their arrival.
I have never been good at determining the weight of a hog. Every one I shoot seems to weigh about 600 pounds as I lift it into the bed of my truck. I am told a weight of about 75 to 100 pounds is best for cooking.
Some sportsman will tell you that the larger the animal the better trophy it will make. That may be true. But my intention is not to mount the animal on my wall. I want him sitting on my dinning room table, butchered, cleaned and cooked with a side of green beans.
When it comes to hogs, the smaller ones are best. Anything around knee high butchers out well. Larger hogs and boars tend to have an undesirable, gamey taste.
Even the smaller boars will have a slight taint to the meat, but this is easy to remove. Some hunters prefer soaking the meat in milk to remove the unsavory taste.
Myself, I prefer ice water. Quarter the hog, leaving it in an ice chest filled with ice for at least a day. That will help remove the wild taste. Be careful not to let too much ice melt because pork spoils quickly if not kept cold.
My favorite method of cooking the game is over a barbecue pit, but not one of those gas flame contraptions that have become so popular. I mean the old-fashioned pits in which you light the mesquite wood with diesel fuel while everyone stands around visiting.
A marinade of seasonings -- my only requirements are garlic salt and melted butter -- to hold it together keeps the meat tender while cooking. Don't let the fire get out of hand or the meat will burn before the center is fully cooked.
When cooking outdoors, it's OK to experiment. Throw some spices together and see how it turns out. Just because it's called fajita seasoning doesn't mean you can't use it on other dishes.
Now some of you will want something a little fancier. I recently came across -- compliments of a fellow reporter -- a recipe for braised pork with turnips that cooks in less than an hour.
Place a 12-inch skillet, preferably nonstick, over medium-high heat for at least a minute. Add one tablespoon of a neutral oil and one tablespoon of butter. When the butter foam subsides or the oil is hot, add the pork, a few chunks at a time. When it is all in the skillet, turn the heat to high, cooking it about five minutes until the pork is nicely browned on one side. Turn each piece, returning the heat to medium-high for about three minutes.
Add 1-1/2-pounds of purple top turnips, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks. Shake the skillet so that the pork and turnips are all sitting in one layer, or nearly so. Cook another three or four minutes or until the turnips begin to brown. Add 3/4-cup of white wine or chicken stock and stir once or twice.
Add salt and pepper to taste along with one tablespoon of minced, fresh parsley, turning the heat to medium-low and covering the skillet. Cook, stirring every 10 minutes, until both pork and turnips are tender.
It will take about 30 minutes. Remove the cover and raise the heat to medium-high, boiling the liquid until it's reduced to a syrupy glaze. Add additional salt and pepper to taste, sprinkling with one tablespoon of parsley.
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